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Governor Holiday’s address at the Governor’s Symposium "EDUCATION FOR DEMOCRACY" on Monday

DAWN BEACH, Sint Maarten – His Excellency Governor Eugene Holiday addressed a cross section of society who attended the Governor’s Symposium which was held at Westin Dawn Beach Resort & Spa on Monday, June 30, 2014.  Here is the Governor’s address.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Good Morning,

It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the third annual Governor's Symposium with the theme "Education for Democracy". A theme inspired by the bicentenary celebrations of the democratic achievements of the Kingdom of the Netherlands' and grounded in my mission to foster and encourage excellence in governance as a practice to advance the well-being of the people of Sint Maarten in all its facets.

In pursuing my mission it is my conviction that governance that results in sustainable democratic development is the highest calling of leadership. As a result, I shall in the next few minutes share my thoughts with you on the topic "Education for Democracy – Challenge and Opportunity".

Since its inception, the overall objective of the Governor's symposia is to promote good governance by highlighting pertinent societal issues through the exchange of information and ideas. My life's journey has taught me that information channels interest which is fertile ground for development and progress. Interest fuels knowledge, knowledge drives freedom, freedom nourishes initiative and initiative feeds development and progress. The purpose of this year's symposium on education for democracy therefore is to generate greater interest about developments, ideas and thinking that affect our lives and to fertilize the minds of our people and leaders towards more decisions, policies and actions which dictate best practices required to sustain a stable and democratic society.

Blessed with natural beauty and friendly and resilient people, our small island nation St. Maarten has over the years been characterized by stability and growth. As a people we attach immeasurable value to that achievement. This is articulated in the preamble to our constitution with the words:, "We the people of Sint Maarten declare that we are a people that believe in the principle of democracy, the rule of law, the principle of the separation of powers, the dignity and values of the individual, and the entitlement of all individuals to the fundamental rights and freedoms".

To live by and sustain our democratic convictions we must support them with real and continued action that maintains and strengthens the realization of our ideals for our society. Such real action should be anchored in the understanding that a stable and democratic society is not possible without a certain level of literacy and a common set of shared values among our people. This implies that education, considering the role it plays in literacy and in enhancing the possibilities to communicate shared values, is the foundation to maintain and sustain our democratic way of life.

The former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan stated it as follows and I Quote:
"EDUCATION IS A HUMAN RIGHT WITH IMMENSE POWER TO TRANSFORM. ON ITS FOUNDATION RESTS THE CORNERSTONES OF FREEDOM, DEMOCRACY AND SUSTAINABLE HUMAN DEVELOPMENT". Unquote

It is thus essential that we, like every country should, examine and place achievements in and challenges to education in this broader democratic perspective.

A quick scan of the developments in education on Sint Maarten reveals a history of some 163 years of formal education, starting with the establishment of the Oranje School as a public primary school in 1851 followed by the Catholic St. Joseph School in 1890. Since then a lot has transpired institutionally to the point that only last week a new public school, the Drs. Alma Fleming-Rogers Educational Care Centre was officially opened. The opening of that school adds to the array of Public, Catholic, Non Catholic Christian and Private Schools offering primary, secondary and tertiary education.

Modelled initially after the Dutch education system our school system has been influenced by major reforms in education in the Netherlands, such as by the Dutch Mamoet law of 1968 and the Dutch Foundation Based Education Law of 1993. At the same other educational ideas – Caribbean, American and Canadian – have found a place in our education system. It is thus safe to say that our education system is one of diversity. As a result discussions regarding the Sint Maarten education system has abound for years taking on various forms. These discussions often concentrate on among others the following challenges/issues:

  1. First, this system is superior to that system;
  2. Second, the high level of drop outs;
  3. Third, the curricular is foreign to the realities of Sint Maarten;
  4. Fourth, the curricular does not meet the needs of the job market;
  5. And fifth and most notably, should our mother tongue be the language of instruction or not – English versus Dutch.

Listening to these discussions it seems that we view our education system from a perspective of the glass is half empty. This view is cause for concern given that education is the cornerstone for our democracy.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Parallel with the developments in education, Sint Maarten has evolved constitutionally from an "invisible" dependency in the nineteen century to an autonomous country since 2010. As a result we, like no generation before us, have the opportunity and constitutional authority, to shape the socio-economic, educational, cultural and environmental construct of our beloved island. How we address this challenge and approach this opportunity in regard to the construct of our education system, will determine our success in the discharge of our responsibilities; that is towards maintaining a sustainable democracy based on our convictions as stated in our constitution.

It is with a view of this challenge and opportunity in mind that I organize this symposium.

At this symposium speakers will address you from national and regional perspectives on education for democracy. In doing so they shall address relevant issues, such as, the state of St. Maarten's education, education for social capital, principles and practices of democratic citizenship, and the relationship between education and democracy. It is my hope that their messages will stimulate greater interest for and contribute to the promotion of national dialogue and policy making on education towards the sustainable democratic development of our nation.

Taking the discussions about education into account I wish to leave you with the following thought. Let us, given our geo-political reality, cease the opportunities before us to direct our education system based on our shared values anchored in common standards of excellence. And in so doing guarantee quality education for a stable, safe, fair and democratic Sint Maarten society.

In short excellence in our school benches equals excellence in our Parliament benches and thus in the governance of our country.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

With that I hereby declare this symposium on "EDUCATION FOR DEMOCRACY" OFFICIALLY OPEN and wish you an enjoyable and fruitful symposium.

Thank You

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What value our national symbols?

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - By Fabian Ade Badejo: Symbols are the sometimes the cryptic representation of a people’s values, ideals, and aspirations. They are the morse codes by which our history, culture, and highest achievements are transmitted. No society can function properly without its own set of symbols because they are the focal point around which the people are united. To the extent to which those symbols are valued, to that same extent would members of that society feel a sense of belonging, of kinship, of even patriotism.

As we celebrate Emancipation Day, on July 1st, it behooves us to reflect on some of these symbols that represent our peoplehood. What value do we attach to our national symbols?

We could begin with the very name of the island, but for expediency sake, let’s start instead with the St. Maarten flag and coat of arms since these are considered among the highest official symbols of any people. How often do we see the St. Maarten flag flying on cars and in front of buildings, (including sometimes, government buildings or those of government agencies), with its colors faded, the cloth tattered, looking uncared for?

And the coat of arms? Not even at the entrance to the Parliament Building is this displayed! Oh, the Parliament! Where else in the world is Parliament located above stores? At least, they say there are plans to erect a befitting building for the people’s business sometime in the future at a yet to be determined location.

Naturally, we have a national motto: “semper pro grediens” (Always moving forward), which many of us do not know about and which has not sunken deep enough into the national psyche, if there is any such thing yet.

One important national symbol we still lack is a national anthem, but we won’t go into that because of the confusion surrounding it and the contentious nature of the matter. So, let’s take a quick look at the other “abstract” symbols. We have a national flower, (the yellow sage), a national tree (the flamboyant or July Tree) which we equate with Emancipation and also a national bird – the Brown Pelican. How do we relate to these symbols? What value do we attach to them?

It was the 19th Century American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer, John Dewey, who famously said: “When men think and believe in one set of symbols and act in ways which are contrary to their professed and conscious ideas, confusion and insincerity are bound to result.”  He could as well have been talking about how we react to and value our own symbols on St. Maarten.

Let’s take, for example, the recent hullabaloo about the bronze pelicans at the airport roundabout. We are talking about three huge bronze sculptures deemed too expensive by certain individuals whose knowledge and appreciation of art is suspect at best. What value should we attach, even in monetary terms, to our national symbols? What value do constitutional monarchies in Europe - such as in the UK, Spain, The Netherlands, Sweden – attach to these institutions which are symbols of their national unity? Even at times of severe economic recession as they have witnessed recently, do they ever consider their monarchies too expensive to maintain, even as they question their relevance in this modern day and age?

But perhaps, such analogies are too far-fetched. Perhaps, what best reflects how we value our national symbols can be found at the marketplace in town, just a stone’s throw from Parliament.

At both the Backstreet end of the market, and the Clem Labega Square entrance to the marketplace are structures erected with the name: “Philipsburg Market Place”. At either side of this are stone pillars with the national bird – the Pelican – in concrete. Unfortunately, one of the concrete pelicans at the Backstreet end of the market place has mysteriously disappeared while the other one has been beheaded (see attached photograph). This has remained so for several months, according to some of the market women.

What is fascinating about this is the fact that practically ALL our members of parliament have to pass in front of it on their way to or from parliament to conduct the “people’s business.” The same goes for our ministers whenever they have to appear in parliament. The same also goes for our government officials and other top advisers who have some kind of business or the other in parliament. It speaks volumes about how much they value our national symbols that none of them has noticed this sad state of affairs with the concrete pelicans.

This brings to mind what the 19th Century French novelist, Joséphin Péladan, said: “The absence of symbols in our life debases it as much as any government can...” Need I add anything to that?

What can we deduce from this nonchalant, disrespectful, and outright disgraceful attitude to our national symbols by those who should be the very first to uphold their integrity? That they believe that the people deserve just cheap and poor representations of their national symbols? That it doesn’t matter what state of care or disrepair such representations may be?

As we celebrate Emancipation Day, maybe we should reflect on these issues and ask ourselves: what value do we attach to our national symbols, and how is this reflected in our treatment of them? After all, as the Victorian philosopher, Thomas Carlyle, a Scotsman once said, “By symbols, accordingly, is man guided and commanded, made happy, made wretched.” May we not be made more wretched by the way we relate to our national symbols.

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UP Concerned about no Confirmed Date Set for New Government Building

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – The board of the United People’s (UP) party remains concerned about the opening of the new government building located on Pond Island. A bond was recently concluded via the Central Bank of Sint Maarten and Curacao. 


"We are closely monitoring the latest remarks of the Honourable Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams in regards to the opening of the new government building," remarked the UP Board.

"We are calling on the Honourable Prime Minister Wescot-Williams to clearly define a timeline for the completion of this project as she neglected to do such during a recent press briefing," the UP board added.

"The optimal functioning of the civil service of our country is a priority for the UP Party. Our civil servants should be adequately supported and provided with an efficient work environment.

“Preparations for a smooth transfer from the current Government Building and other related offices rented/leased within Philipsburg where public services are rendered, a plan of action is needed and should be communicated to all civil servants who will be impacted by such a move.

“Proper preparation is necessary in order to ensure that the Information Technology systems are secure and data which is essential to running of the country and government apparatus are properly prepared for the move," the UP board said. 

"The sooner this project can be completed the better for our country and our people," the UP board concluded in a statement on Sunday.

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Prime Minister Wescot-Williams Attends 17th Anniversary of VKS Ceremony

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - The Prime Minister of St. Maarten the Honorable Sarah Wescot-Williams attended the 17th Anniversary celebration of the Voluntary Corps of St. Maarten VKS at a ceremony in front of the Government Administration Building on Saturday.

The PM, under whose authority the VKS falls, congratulated the VKS on their more than 17 years service in protecting and serving the community of St. Maarten and those who have been with the organization since the very beginning.

The Prime Minister also congratulated and thanked the family members of those in the VKS who have stood by them as they put their put their life on the line to protect and serve the people of St. Maarten.

“On this your 17th Anniversary allow me to congratulate those of you who have been promoted to a higher rank and those of you who have been recognized for exemplary service to the VKS over the years. Clearly the Voluntary Corps of St. Maarten continues to be an institution in evolution: continuously moving forward and adopting new tasks and also introducing new members into your ranks.

“Every year it is good to stand still for just a moment and recognize your service to this community as well as to contemplate as you move forward. So as we recognize this service it is also a fact that as VKS officers you are acting as role models in the community of St. Maarten. Contributing to the VKS is contributing to the community of St. Maarten and supporting the community of St. Maarten and building this country block by block and step by step,” Prime Minister Hon. Sarah Wescot-Williams pointed out.

The Voluntary Corps of St. Maarten (VKS) is a paramilitary organization that conducts emergency services, protects the population and conducts law enforcement services. (Contributed by the Cabinet of the Prime Minister)

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Urgent Plenary session of parliament for Monday with Minister of VROMI

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – An urgent plenary session of the House of Parliament is scheduled for June 30 in the afternoon. 

The plenary session of the House is set for Monday at 2.00pm in the General Assembly Chamber of the House at Wilhelmina Straat #1 in Philipsburg.

The first agenda point is incoming documents; second agenda point is the purchase agreement by and between the heirs of the Vorst Family and Country Sint Maarten, represented by Minister of VROMI Hon. Maurice Lake.  

This meeting was requested by Members of Parliament (MPs) Hon. William Marlin, MP Hon. George Pantophlet, and MP Hon. Louie Laveist.

Members of the public are invited to the House of Parliament to attend parliamentary deliberations.

The House of Parliament is located across from the Court House in Philipsburg.

The parliamentary session will be carried live on St. Maarten Cable TV Channel 120, via Pearl Radio FM 98.1, the audio via the Internet www.pearlfmradio.com, and also via www.sxmparliament.org  

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Prime Minister Wescot-Williams Receives Courtesy Visit from Renowned Faith-based Leader and Leadership Expert Myles Munroe

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten - The Prime Minister of St. Maarten the Honorable Sarah Wescot-Williams on Tuesday received a courtesy call from renowned motivational speaker, leadership expert and faith-based lecturer Dr. Myles Munroe and entourage.

Dr. Myles Munroe is the president and founder of the Bahamas Faith Ministries International (BFMI)and Myles Munroe International (MMI), a Christian growth and resource center that includes leadership training institutes, a missions agency, a publishing company, a television network, radio and Web communications, and a church community. He is chief executive officer and chairman of the board of the International Third World Leaders Association and president of the International Leadership Training Institute. He is the author of 23 books and is a motivational speaker.

During the visit the Prime Minister and Dr. Munroe discussed various items regarding the Governing institutions on St. Maarten and the history and development of St. Maarten over the past few decades. Prime Minister Wescot-Williams also talked about her personal history and development as a political leader and a civil servant to Dr. Munroe, who will feature the Prime Minister and St. Maarten during a full featured article in his various media outlets.

Dr. Munroe thanked Prime Minister Wescot-Williams for her dedication to the St. Maarten political development and for her dedication as a political leader. (From the Cabinet of the Prime Minister)

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SUMMER SPLASH 2014(LET'S GET WET) Sunday July 6 @ Kimsha

SIMPSON BAY CORNER, Sint Maarten - Presented by - Mango juice Production (kalaboom team & sugary treasures) and Coors Light

Music by

kalaboom deejays

Dj Bigboss, Deej Maestro,

Dj Lil R

Dj Fabulous (big and serious sound)

Dj Outkast

Dj Vybes

Dj EM

Mc: Dutty sham / Ricky the PHOXX/ Silva hype

Kiddies 10am-4pm

Generation new status STM

Ebony steel orchestra

Children fashion show

Mc-calypso road march king -Rickyshio-the royal kid

4-8 adults

Bikini Fashion show

Wet t-shirt competition

Dive for money competition

Other water competition for singles and teams

*Live performances by Asa Bantan and King Vers

Balloons, Food and drinks on sale for all ages

pools, Slides ,Foam room, Water trucks, Bouncers,Bumper Cars, Space Shuttle, Carousel, Chuchu Train, Toy Crane and much more

*Special on Hennessy signature cocktail

Look for the Funmiles tent and get your card, meet Kim Fundashian

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Minister Lake congratulates USM Class of 2014

PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten – Minister of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (Ministry of VROMI) Hon. Maurice Lake, would like to congratulate the entire class of 2014 of the University of St. Martin (USM), and wishes them much success in their future endeavors.

Minister Lake who attended the 20th commencement ceremony says class 2014 is a class of great intelligence, “…and will move this country forward once given the right opportunity to showcase their talents in their different fields of study.

“I am very proud of our 2014 degree recipients and I wish them all the best in their future endeavors. I always say that any student from USM, they can go anywhere in the world and excel in their field of study.

“USM strength lies in their students and alumni foundation.  The majority of our graduates hold key positions in every sector of our economy.  The first graduates of the University of St. Martin extension of Johnson & Wales University hold every key position within every sector of Sint Maarten.

“Class of 1991, 23 years later are a prime example of the quality and strength of USM.  As young professionals, we take a lot of things for granted but we don't realize the role and impact we have to set for the next generation.

“We are the ones to move this country forward but we can only do it together, but not by criticizing each other.  We need to focus on Country instead of egos and negative energy of bringing each other down. 

“Class of 2014 today are the leaders and movers oftomorrow.  Much success and always remember you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you and guides you along the way once you seek his intervention,” Minister Hon. Maurice Lake said on Sunday.

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All Set for Mental Health Workshop on June 23

GREAT BAY, Sint Maarten (DCOMM) – Everything is in place for the Mental Health Workshop related to a National Health Plan and Mental Health Plan of Action 2014-2018 that will take place on Monday, June 23.

The workshop will take place at the Sonesta Great Bay Resort & Casino from 8.00am to 4.00pm.  

The Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour agency the Collective Prevention Services, is hosting the workshop. 

Since June 2012 the initial first step was taken to develop a comprehensive integration process of leading to a National Health Plan and Mental Health Plan of Action 2014-2018.  This is being done through various stakeholder consultations. 

As part of Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labour Hon. Cornelius de Weever’s “Get Checked” campaign which promotes good health for all ages, mental well-being is essential in order for a person to realize their potential, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and contribute towards the development of their community. 

The invited participants are selected government stakeholders, non-governmental organizations and general practitioners. 

The first step in the process was to have baseline information on the mental health system.  This was done with the World Health Organization (WHO) AIMS (Assessment Instrument for Mental Health Systems) survey in 2013. 

The report was finalized last year and presented to the Minister of Public Health and is now available on the WHO website for review.  Sint Maarten is listed among the countries that did the WHO-AIMS survey. 

The National Mental Health Plan 2014 - 2018 and the linked Action plan are the next steps that have to be taken. The plans will allow stakeholders to improve and strengthen the mental health system on Sint Maarten. 

WHO-AIMS are carried out every five years to measure the performance. 

This whole process has been a collaborative process with stakeholders and the Monday workshop will continue the trend to involve stakeholders in national planning. 

During the workshop stakeholders will work on identifying actions and activities as set out in the plan. 

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